I’d rather keep the parties at my house than in Parliament

cameronFOR A LONG time now, I have not agreed with the way in which our political system utilizes political parties. There has been too much focus on the parties and not enough concern for the actual issues that should be debated, such as student tuition fees, NHS failures and economic disasters. Party leaders often fight tooth and nail to convince the population that their party is the be-all and end-all, rather than using their policies to garner popularity. Furthermore, if there is meant to be true justification in party politics then there should be proper representation of each political party throughout the UK. In this article I will focus on the upcoming general election TV debates and their leaders, whilst also breaking down the overarching debate to explain why I think there has been too much focus on party politics and nowhere near enough focus on the hard-hitting issues that need politicians’ attention.

As we all know, it’s coming very close to the UK General Elections and the April TV debates. The TV debates will be taking place with leaders of the main political parties, David Cameron (Conservatives), Ed Miliband (Labour) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats). With room for growth, Nigel Farage’s UKIP weaseled his way into the debates. After an explosion of online presence, Natalie Bennett (Greens) campaigned for a spot, arguing that they had as much right as UKIP as an up-and-coming party. Now this is where it gets interesting. At first, David Cameron was quite reluctant to voice his opinion on their inclusion, however after realising he could gain something, he soon stuck his nose in. He stated that he would not appear on the televised debates if the Greens were not involved. As the first elected Prime Minister to appear on the debates, the lack of his presence would be unacceptable to broadcasters. In response to this inclusion of minor parties, more panelists were added, including the SNP and Plaid Cymru, bringing the grand total to seven panelists. However, this has meant there is no representation from any political parties in Northern Ireland. As I am Northern Irish it may seem that I am biased, but to have England, Scotland and Wales all having representatives in the UK General Election TV debates, then surely there should be a representative from EVERY nation within the UK.

Now, I understand that in Northern Ireland, there are very much two distinctive sides representing the political spectrum; Sinn Fein (Nationalists) representing one side, and the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) on the other. Although many people, like myself, don’t really care about what side you are on there is this clear cut split which, naturally, produces a struggle to be able to choose a single representative to feature on the debates. But, personally, I think, why not have both? If you want to have true democracy then there should be equal representation of the entire UK political spectrum. Some may say that it could spark disagreements with these opposing parties, however, I think it’s a great opportunity for them to work together to talk about the governance of the UK as a whole. This would also allow Northern Irish views to be discussed fairly – after all, that’s what democracy is all about. If we weren’t going to include them in the governance of this country, then why bother fighting for it at all; the troubles in Ireland may as well have been for naught.
This particular case shows the distinct lack of true democracy within the political party system by leaving out an entire nation within its debates. On the other hand, I have also found that with televised and media-centric debates, or those in the House of Commons itself, there is too much emphasis on the parties and not enough on the topic itself.

As an Interpol student, I remain updated with current events, finding myself on the politics pages of various media outlets; yet the majority of content discusses the big political parties and their petty arguments. The December 12th Question Time featured the specific question from the audience on the pettiness between parties detracting from politics as a whole. The show had MPs statements on various issues ranging from local elections to Russell Brand vs everyone else on the panel. Panelists focused specifically on the benefits of their own party rather than the issues debated; although Brand did do a good job of showing precisely how petty politics has become. It’s like the age old debate about whose horse is bigger. I’ve noticed that this is becoming clearer to more and more people, which makes me so happy when I watch Question Time and hear a member of the audience tell them to ‘stop and answer the [fucking] question’. Of course, I can see the benefits of why there are political parties. Helping to give a consensus of people’s views and choosing who becomes the Prime Minister of the UK; otherwise there may constantly be a hung parliament. My point though is that MPs often focus too much on their party rather than the constituency that has elected them in.

Often when people discuss voting they don’t discuss the person or party best for the constituency, rather the party as a whole or the potential Prime Minister is focused upon. This shouldn’t be the case. For example, Douglas Carswell was a Conservative MP who defected to UKIP representing Clacton. This shows that the vote you make is NOT of the party but actually the person running for your constituency as the party could change at any time, however you need someone willing to push through their policies. There needs to be more focus on the individual MPs that run and holding them liable to represent their constituencies properly regardless of their party. You may ask, ‘if parties went, then how would you choose the leader?’ Well, very good question, hypothetical person. My idea is that we have MPs elected in the same way, but none of them represent a political party; they should just be there to represent their constituency. Then there should be a separate election for the leader. This, of course, would change things so that we had a President. However, don’t judge too much just yet. Often the annoyance of a President is that they are still part of a political party, and when the MPs (or Congress) are different to the President in party terms then it complicates matters, with little progress being able to be achieved. See Obama’s latest term. But if both the President and the House of Commons were both non-party political, then this complication is taken away, and it allows all representatives to focus on precisely what is best for their constituency and the UK as a whole.